Only when we are properly informed by God’s Word the way it was written—in its context—can we be transformed by it. Every piece becomes powerful when it is working together according to the Spirit’s design. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Used properly, it parries deception and pierces the heart. It protects us from error. A sword made of putty, though, has no power. It pierces nothing. It offers no protection. And it has no place in the arsenal of a Christian.
21st-century kids have cell phones, YouTube, and Xboxes. When I was a kid, we had simpler delights. One was a handful of malleable goo that could be pulled, twisted, or distorted into any shape imaginable. It was called Silly Putty®.
Sadly, many Christians use their Bibles like Silly Putty®. Just add the Spirit, and the Bible becomes putty in their hands, able to be molded into almost anything at all. Rather than approaching the Scripture as a treasure of truth for all Christians, some evangelicals have the dangerous habit of searching the text for a personal “promise” or “word” of guidance from the Spirit that is unrelated to the text’s original meaning.
Often, the results turn out to be silly. Other times, they are dangerous. Regardless of the outcome, this practice is always a bad habit. Here’s how it often looks.
The Holy Spirit Give-Away
Instead of studying to find the objective meaning of a passage and then making personal application of that scriptural truth to their lives, many Christians read the Bible looking for verses or isolated phrases the Spirit “impresses” on them with personal messages that are foreign to the context.
For example, a Christian woman who has been praying for her family’s conversion stumbles upon Acts 16 during her quiet time. Her eyes settle on Paul’s response to the Philippian jailer, who asked, “What must I do to be saved?” “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,” Paul answered, then added, “you and your household” (vv. 29–31).
Encouraged by these words, the woman begins to claim the “promise” that her own household will be saved, with the justification that “the Holy Spirit gave me this verse.”
Why would she use that particular wording to describe what she experienced? Because in the normal, natural understanding of that passage, the verse wasn’t “hers” to begin with.
Rather, she believes that, under the Spirit’s influence, there was a mystical transformation that took place causing the meanings of the words to change just for her, conveying a private message not intended by the original author (Luke, in this case) and not intended for anyone else. It was a private message from God just for her incorporating the words of the biblical text, but not previously in those words.
Notice, her confidence is not based on the objective meaning of the passage but on the unique subjective meaning given to her by the Spirit in the moment. I—or any other Christian, for that matter—could not claim that verse for myself unless the Holy Spirit “gave” the verse to me, as well.
Experiences like these are powerful because they seem intensely personal. But there’s a problem: Acts 16:31 is not her promise. It’s the Philippian jailer’s promise, if a promise at all. Using the passage as she has done is an abuse of God’s Word. It’s also deeply relativistic.
Relativism is the defining characteristic of the age and has influenced the church in subtle yet profound ways. When an objective claim (a verse) communicates completely different meanings (“truths”) to different subjects (people), that’s relativism. Since truth is not in the objective meaning of the words but in the personal, subjective experience of the reader—in this case, an experience allegedly caused by the Holy Spirit—a personal prompting can be “true for me but not for you.” Since there are different experiences for different people, there are different “truths” for each.
Let me speak plainly: There is no biblical justification for finding private, personal messages in texts originally intended by God to mean something else. This approach is the wrong way to read the Bible. One reason I know this is because of what the Bible teaches about itself.
The Bible on Bible Study
First, the Bible teaches that the written words of Scripture are inspired.
“All Scripture [graphe, Gr.—the “writing”] is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). The wording here is important. Paul says that the writing itself is “God-breathed,” not the thoughts, impressions, or private messages that occur to us when we read the writing.
God told Moses to speak to Pharaoh the specific words of God: “I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say” (Exodus 4:12). “Let them hear My words,” God said later at Horeb, “so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth” (Deuteronomy 4:10). These are the “living words” that Stephen said have been passed on to us (Acts 7:38).
God told Jeremiah, “Write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book” (Jeremiah 30:2). He said to Isaiah, “My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring’s offspring” (Isaiah 59:21).
God has always been concerned with the words because precise words are necessary to convey precise meaning. That’s why Paul confidently refers to God’s revelation not as words of human wisdom, but as “words…taught by the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:13).
Second, the Bible teaches it is important to accurately understand these inspired words of Scripture.
Note Jesus in Luke 10:25–28:
And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly.”
Jesus did not ask, “What does the Spirit say to you on this issue?” He asked, “What is written? How does it read?” Then he waited to see if the lawyer got it right.
There is a correct and incorrect way to read the Bible. Paul tells Timothy to handle the Word accurately to avoid bringing shame on himself (2 Timothy 2:15). Jesus scolded the Pharisees for not understanding the Scripture properly. He then made an argument for the resurrection that hinged on the tense of a word: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matthew 22:29–32).
Third, the Bible teaches that private interpretations do not yield the accurate meaning.
Peter is clear on this point. He writes:
But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation; for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20–21)
Because there is a divine author behind prophecy, the apostle argues, there is a particular truth—a determinate meaning—that God intends to convey.
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By Jacob Crouch — 7 months ago
Trust no more in your own weak efforts, and trust the efforts of the Savior. And when you trust Him, He will save you. His death on the cross is more than sufficient for all your sin. As Richard Sibbes has said, “There is more mercy in Him, than sin in us.”
I’m just trying to get right with God.
Working in the hospital, I heard this phrase so many times. Many had come face to face with their own mortality, and the thought of coming before God brought new introspection. So I’d ask the same question that Job asked: “How can a man be in the right before God” (Job 9:2)? And the answer I was given was almost always simple, predictable, and wrong.
“You know, I’m just trying to get back in the church, start reading my Bible, start tithing, get baptized, and start doing better.” And I’ll imagine that if you’ve spoken to anyone on the street you’ve probably heard something similar, as if the problem was that they just needed to do a little better and then they would be on God’s good side. But how terrifying to imagine standing before the Judge of all creation, and all you can say is, “I’m not quite as bad as I used to be. I’m doing better!”
Here’s the problem: You cannot be good enough. You cannot be “better” enough. Your good works will never outweigh your bad. James says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). Every sin committed is equal to breaking God’s entire law. How many sins have you committed? How large is your negative balance? This is regarding your sin, but what about your righteous deeds? “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). Even your best deeds are filthy before God. In our sin, we are unclean. Imagine standing before God in the judgement, and all we have to offer Him is a pile of unclean, filthy garments. You see, we don’t need to be better, because we can’t be better.
By Peter Jones — 2 years ago
But Johnson fails to insist that Jesus the Redeemer is also the Creator who created male and female. There is a crucial Reformed worldview hole in Johnson’s gospel preaching and cultural analysis. His desire to evangelize the gay community lacks a full-orbed view of existence. His gospel invitation to gays to adopt celibacy, without any hope of change, is, as he says, “a doorway into a godly hopelessness because there is no locus of hope in this life” (239). Cure is removed but care is not attractive.
In his book Still Time to Care (2021), Greg Johnson, an intelligent Christian thinker, seeks to make a valid case for allowing someone who, like himself, is openly same-sex attracted, gay, and celibate to be an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Johnson adopts a profoundly orthodox and well exegetically supported view of biblical sexuality. He affirms the fundamental importance of “gender complementarity” (154), that is, of one-flesh, male/female sexuality, as clearly expressed in Genesis 2:24: “therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” He shows (155) that this must be the case by arguing that the Hebrew term ezer kenegdo, translated as “a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:20), reflects the sexual complementarity necessary for the realization of the divine call to the original male and female couple to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen 1:28). Not a male but only a female “helper” could make this happen. Throughout the book, and throughout his ministry, Johnson maintains this biblical teaching as the basis for his commitment to celibacy.
He states clearly:
“Personally, what I find so convicting is this: As we look at the unfolding narrative of Scripture, we see that whenever sexual desire is cultivated outside of that original design—whether lust, sex with animals, sex outside of marriage, prostitution, incest, adultery, deserting a spouse, or, yes, sex with a person of the same sex—it is presented as something distorted. Something God doesn’t want us to do. (156).”
Johnson is to be respected for his life-long commitment to this teaching, shown by his adoption of personal celibacy. At great personal suffering, he refuses to marry and will not endorse full engagement in same-sex relationships for Christians. He takes the position of “Side B” thinking, rejecting “Side A,” which endorses full engagement in sexual expression for Christians. “[T]hose unable to marry a person of the opposite sex are called to celibacy,” affirms Johnson (217). This choice causes those who adopt it to trust in “God’s power” (100) and gives believers who self-identify as gay “a very clearly defined redemptive historical trajectory concerning sexuality in the Bible.” He sees “celibacy as an intrusion ethic, an in-breaking of the ethics of the coming age into our present era” (158). Celibate Christian gays are an example to other believers, since in heaven none of us will be married.
Taking Care of Johnson
One main emphasis in Johnson’s book is his adamant rejection of “ex-gay” or “conversion therapy,” which believes that gays, especially believers, can and should be liberated from (or be on the way to liberation from) the gay life-style, even including its desires. His conviction that same-sex attraction (SSA) cannot be changed determines his vision of personal sanctification, the crucial place of celibacy, the nature of the church, and of the rightful place of gay pastors. To emphasize this conviction, Johnson begins with accounts of horrendous attempts in history to eliminate homosexuality, including the Nazi experimentations in Dachau and Buchenwald and later electric shock methods later used by secular therapists in the US during the 70s.
Much Christian counseling seemed ineffective. In July, 1999 “Exodus International [the largest ex-gay ministry] publicly declared that some believers cannot change their sexual orientation” (100). Exodus director, Alan Chambers, would later say that “change in orientation was not possible or happening (118). …The majority of people whom I have met, …99.9 percent of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation” (122). Citing Chambers as an authority, however, relies on the opinion of a man who has now accepted the (“Side A”) belief that Christians can live a fully active homosexual lifestyle and be pleasing to the Lord (129).
Having examined a number of leading “ex-gay” ministries, Johnson makes a “postmortem” judgment, concluding that hope for sexual change is now “dead” (134), because “the sexualized pull toward people of the same sex is not likely to go away.” For Johnson, the ex-gay movement “fostered an overrealized, triumphalistic eschatology which lines up neither with Scripture nor Experience” (135). Thus, he says, “we bid farewell to the ex-gay movement” (148).
In this review, I will briefly discuss the teaching of Scripture and the experience of same-sex attracted Christians, but I also wish to address the deep principles of holiness in creation as well as the cultural quagmire in which we live, as these relate to the issue at hand.
Johnson comments on one of the passages of Scripture that speaks directly to the subject of homosexuality, namely 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, in which the Apostle Paul observes:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Johnson posits that Paul was not talking about a radical emotional change and a deep cleansing of sexual desire: “God was not promising orientation change, that is, the constant desire for homosexual sex. …He was promising the grace to forsake an unrepentant pattern of sex with other members of the same sex” (144). But we must wonder: Can this principle be applied to the other categories of sinful unbelief mentioned by Paul? Can a believer live his whole life constantly lusting over women though never committing adultery and still affirm his unity and fellowship with a holy Savior? Can a believer constantly think idolatrous thoughts, as Paul says, “devot[ing] themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God, which is by faith”? (1Tim 1:4). Can a thief claim to be a believer though thinking without respite about how to steal from his neighbors? There is surely in this text a notion of fundamental liberation from a constant life of sin, thanks to the Christian’s washing, purifying and sanctifying in Christ’s blood, as the classic form of Reformed sanctification affirms. J. C. Ryle describes sanctification as “that inward spiritual work by which the Lord Jesus Christ puts a new principle in [the believer’s] heart.”
Paul seems to say that past pagan desire for sin is no longer the pattern for the believer. Johnson classifies a Christian exhortation to gays to abandon their desires as “spiritual abuse” (208). For Paul, homosexuality is always “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim 1:10) and is a denial of the being of God (Rom 1:25–27).
Johnson’s personal experience of unrelenting homosexual desire leads him to a total rejection of the “ex-gay script,” but this judgment does not meet with the approval of all in the field of gay therapy. For example, he dismisses the work of Joseph Nicolosi, a well-known and respected counselor in reparative therapy. Johnson critiques Nicolosi’s life-long practice on the basis of one failure (64) and on the fact that he was not accepted as an authority by the evangelical group Exodus (65) due to the fact that Nicolosi was a Roman Catholic.
Another who would disagree is Andrew J. Sodergren, PsyD, adjunct professor at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C., and a licensed psychologist at Ruah Woods Psychological Services in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sodergren approves of Nicolosi’s work:
[Nicolosi] has done a laudable job of developing the academic and clinical foundations of reparative therapy. They deserve study by any psychologist or other academic or professional motivated to understand how family experiences may contribute to the development of homosexuality, and how psychotherapy may help to resolve it for those who wish to be healed.
Nicolosi’s colleague, therapist Dr. David Pickup, reports daily changes in clients who come to his office as they discover their true selves. Both Pickup and Nicolosi affirm that every person is born heterosexual, a biological reality, essential for any serious response to present-day transgenderism.
Sodergren also describes the work of two evangelical scholars, Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse, who were the first to attempt a longitudinal study of adults who desired to change their sexual orientation by religious means. They found that over the course of study, on average, their sample experienced statistically significant change on various measures of sexual orientation away from homosexuality and toward heterosexuality. Even Johnson grants their varied success (125).
Johnson cites research showing that gays are more likely to have suicidal desires (181) because straight culture is dangerous for them. However, Paul Sullins, professor of sociology from the Catholic University of America, opposes legislation that seeks to criminalize “conversion therapy.” He demonstrates that undergoing SOCE (sexual orientation change efforts) reduces suicide risk. His study found that:
Experiencing SOCE therapy does not encourage higher suicidality [as the opponents of conversion therapy maintain], rather, experiencing higher suicidality appears to encourage recourse to SOCE, which in turn strongly reduces suicidality, particularly initial suicide attempts. Restrictions on SOCE deprive sexual minorities of an important resource for reducing suicidality, putting them at substantially increased suicide risk.
Regarding the efficacy of therapy, Prof. Sullins’s research on the situation in the UK reveals that from 45% to 69% of SOCE (sexual orientation change efforts) participants achieved at least partial remission of unwanted same-sex sexuality after counseling; full remission was achieved by 14% for sexual attraction and identification, and 26% for sexual behavior. Another recent study in the UK shows that “British population data tell us that more people have left same-sex partnerings to take up heterosexual partnerships than have remained with that behavior.” A recent Christian video series, “Such Were Some of You,” Pure Passion Media, movingly tells the stories of sixteen SSA people who were deeply changed spiritually and sexually when they met Christ. The California Family Council has recorded the testimonies of many who have voluntarily left the LGBTQ world. Perhaps the ex-gay script is not as moribund as Johnson maintains. We should surely keep the subject open for debate. Can the entire PCA denomination depend on Johnson’s personal judgment that the “ex-gay script” is dead in order to establish a whole new view of ordained ministry?
Taking Care of our Youth
Sara Collins, wife of Nate Collins, founder of Revoice, describes Johnson’s approach as “a philosophy of ministry that doesn’t try to cure people’s orientation, but rather care for them as fellow image bearers of God and heirs of grace in Christ.” Such care, argues Johnson, protects young people from leaving the church because of the way the church treats gays. But care for our young people must include warnings against homosexuality as a lifestyle, as well as thorough instruction in the biblical worldview and the pagan worldview that homosexuality implies. The Apostle James would not agree that warning is spiritual abuse. On the contrary, James encourages such warning: “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). The same passage also offers hope: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
Johnson speaks of the image of God on many occasions. On a podcast he states that as homosexuals “we image God as trinity in our love of intimacy.” But in addition to love, the trinity expresses the crucial difference in the divine persons, whereas homosexuality celebrates sameness. C. S. Lewis, whom Johnson often cites, understood that there are only two religious options: Hinduism or Christianity. He saw Hinduism (which denies the separation between God and Nature) and Christianity (which maintains the difference between Creator and creation) as the two major opposing religious traditions. Steven D. Smith, professor of Law at the University of San Diego, raises this in a fresh way. His book Pagans and Christians in the City: Culture Wars from the Tiber to the Potomac shows how the pagan thinking of first-century Rome, where homosexuality was rampant, has returned to the West. He lays out the two worldview systems that faced off at the beginning of Western history, namely pagan religion and early Christianity:
[T]he pagan gods were actors (albeit powerful and immortal actors) of and within this world. The God of Judaism and Christianity, by contrast, is “the creator of the world…who dwells beyond time and space.” … Pagan religion locates the sacred within this world…[in a] religiosity relative to an immanent sacred. Judaism and Christianity, by contrast, reflect a transcendent religiosity; they place the sacred, ultimately, outside the world.
God is separate from creation. He is hetero (other and different), not homo like the pagan gods (one with or the same as creation). The Apostle Paul distinguishes between pagan Oneism and biblical Twoism and immediately discusses sexuality as a theological outworking of the Oneist choice:
…they exchanged the truth about God for the lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Rom 1:27 ESV)
Throughout time and space there has been a major struggle between heterosexuality (expressing, via the image of God, the objective reality of difference) and homosexuality (expressing the normativity of sameness, or pantheism). Johnson describes “a decades-long culture war against ‘the gays’” (215) and argues that it is dangerous not to be straight in modern Western culture (181). But he fails to see the essential worldview opposition between Oneism and Twoism, between biblical theism and pagan nature worship, of which homosexuality has always been a symbol [see my long article mentioned in footnote 18].
What would Johnson’s message be to students at Gordon College who recently organized a rally “in solidarity with women and the LGBTQA+ community”? The rally was in protest of a chapel talk given by Pastor Marvin Daniels, a black Christian leader, who defended the biblical notion of sexual identity as restricted to male and female and described “a culture in chaos” that is “trying to redefine sexuality for us.” The opposing students declared: “We want to show Gordon that they cannot continue inviting someone who will spread more hate than love.” 
Our recent generations might not realize that they are living with the effects of the Oneist Eastern spirituality and sexual liberation that invaded the West in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1977, June Singer, a Jungian and Gnostic scholar, made a programmatic statement that our most recent generations are now putting into practice: “What lies in store as we move towards the longed-for conjunction of the opposites [Oneism]? … [C]an the human psyche realize its own creative potential through building its own cosmology and supplying it with its own gods?” [emphasis mine]. To those involved in New Age spirituality, she was calling for a coherent, all-encompassing, attractive and religiously pagan account or cosmology of the nature of existence. This is stated programmatically in her book Androgyny: Towards a New Sexuality (1977). This “new” paradigm fits perfectly with the witness of the paganisms of the past. The New Age Movement in its quest to tap into some kind of universal divinity seeks to usher in a golden age of Utopia which denies the value of distinct individuals created in the image of their Creator.
Singer saw and affirmed that the spiritual Age of Aquarius was also the Age of Androgyny, that the “new humanism” of this new age required a new view of sexuality, which she found in androgyny. She also understood its implications, and declared programmatically: “We have at hand…all the ingredients we will need to perform our own new alchemical opus…[the Great Work] to fuse the opposites within us. This is what individuation [the Jungian state of human maturity] is all about.” Singer further states: “The archetype of androgyny (a synonym for homosexuality) appears in us as an innate sense of…and witness to…the primordial cosmic unity—functioning to erase distinction…this was nearly totally expunged from the Judeo-Christian tradition…and a patriarchal God-image.”
The importance of this quote and of her book is that Singer, as a true Jungian, is conscious of promoting the deeply important sexual element in the coming “new humanism” that Jung envisaged: “The androgyne [the human being aware of being both male and female] participates consciously in the evolutionary process, redesigning the individual…society and…the planet.” She recognizes that a fundamental element in this “new sexuality” in its affirmation of Monism or Oneism is a radical rejection of the biblical God and the creational cosmology of the Western Christian past.
Alan Chambers, ex-head of Exodus, got the message and saw the implication of androgyny/homosexuality for contemporary evangelicalism: “Good and evil is a distraction, a detour.” This is theologically devastating and makes one wonder if many “Side B” Christians will eventually end up in “Side A,” where Chambers is. Such an attack on Western civilization through both spirituality and sexuality is succeeding beyond anything one could imagine. The erosion of ethical standards is evident everywhere. An angry response (among many) to a book suggesting the value of sexual reparative therapy shows where we are now.
It’s far too late for you. The gay is everywhere, creeping in, taking over your friends, your children, maybe even you. You can feel it deep down can’t you? The gayness taking over. Soon the world will be fully overtaken. As I type, I can feel it taking hold of me too. I have a sudden urge to listen to Lady Gaga and kiss girls. But there is nothing you can do to stop it. It’s coming for you.
Does Johnson not realize how deeply the LGBTQ ideology has permeated our entire culture? Our young people see that ideology promoted even in official American foreign policy. Our State Department recently closed applications from LGBTQIA+ advocacy groups seeking grants totaling $2.5 million from the new Global LGBTQI+ Inclusive Democracy and Empowerment Fund. Our young people see aberrant sexual identities glorified in high places. Sam Brinton (preferred pronouns “they/them”) wrote to his friends and followers on LinkedIn recently: “I have accepted the offer to serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition in the Office of Nuclear Energy for the Department of Energy.” A drag queen practitioner who shows up to work in the White House in female make-up and stiletto heels, Brinton also publicly boasts about his involvement in “puppy play,” grown men putting on dog masks and behaving like submitted animals for sexual stimulus. Brinton’s appointment and others like it make clear where the present administration wishes to take us.
Clearly the LGBTQ “community” and its political allies aren’t just after tolerance and peaceful coexistence for gays; they are determined to force Americans to treat behavior such as that in which Brinton indulges and celebrates as completely normal. What will it mean for our culture to give someone so depraved the governmental authority to decide what is right and wrong for everyone? The transformation of culture is far from over. Consider the successful media blitz that mainstreams the sexualization of children and promotes the idea that pedophilia is a sexual orientation, not a behavior. USA Today cited “experts” who called pedophilia a “misunderstood” condition and argued that not all pedophiles harm children and that we should call them “MAPS,” since they are only “minor-attracted persons.” Does Johnson take such cultural disaster too lightly? He makes no mention of the culture’s influence on the young people sitting in our churches.
Johnson’s approach to SSA and homosexuality seems naïve and inconsistent. He states: “…the only study that ever looked at the adult sexual attractions of child molesters found that none of them was homosexual” (141). He goes on: “There is no statistical link between pedophilia and homosexuality” (169). At the same time, he admits that “the most common form of same-sex sexual practice in antiquity was pederasty. …[It was] socially accepted for a Greek man to have a teenage male lover.” “The partner half your age is a fantasy most gay men have entertained on more than one occasion” (162). “Sex with a younger man was the primary homosexual expression in the Hellenistic world” (176). His title to this section is provocative: “Teenage Greek Boys and the Men they Melted” (169).
Johnson makes the distinction between pederasty (adolescents) and pedophilia (children), though one has to wonder if the distinction is significant in many cases, since some adolescents are basically children. However, a report from the French Catholic Church admits to 216,000 cases of pedophilia, many of them involving homosexual acts committed by priests from 1950 through 2020. It would seem that homosexuality is just as open to pedophilia as are other forms of sexuality.
How can Johnson preach a prophetic message against sodomy (as the Bible does with such insistence) to both his Christian young people and to the world at large? To be sure, we must insist that God loves gays and straights, because they are humans in God’s image. All of us are sinners and it should not surprise us that one of God’s most powerful and beautiful institutions would be used by the evil one to tempt human beings. Johnson’s solidarity with the gay community, however, leads him to warn against the “ethical system” of Christianity that “systematically favors straight people and marginalizes and oppresses nonstraight people” (180). Are we not also to warn our Christian brothers and sisters about the effects of the Oneist philosophy in all its Creator-denying forms? The doctrine of creation and the notion of the binary are fundamental to biblical orthodoxy. This is the meaning of holiness—in creation, God has separated all things, setting them apart in their rightful, God-honoring places. Calling young people to holiness, which Johnson often does, lacks content if we fail to understand that God is holy because he is distinct from us, and that heterosexuality, as the image of God in us (Genesis 1:27–28), expresses a holy distinction between the sexes. He calls for the church to “champion their human dignity as image bearers” (33), but the sexual image for gays, straights, and transgenders is, according to Scripture, biological heterosexuality. Johnson constantly says he loves Jesus, but does that love sometimes border on sheer emotion rather than on deep Reformed theology? His description of his faith is strong:
My heavenly Father isn’t an angry ogre shaking a stick at me. He’s my Dad. He delights over me with song (23).
…And even now, I have Jesus. He is my life’s positive vison. He rescued me. He forgave all my sin. He clothed me in his righteousness. He took me on as his little brother. He has given me family among his people, the church. Jesus is everything (241).
But Johnson fails to insist that Jesus the Redeemer is also the Creator who created male and female. There is a crucial Reformed worldview hole in Johnson’s gospel preaching and cultural analysis. His desire to evangelize the gay community lacks a full-orbed view of existence. His gospel invitation to gays to adopt celibacy, without any hope of change, is, as he says, “a doorway into a godly hopelessness because there is no locus of hope in this life” (239). Cure is removed but care is not attractive. To avoid an exodus of the young, he calls for a church where gays can be open about their temptations but non-practicing (216). But these same young people face huge, anti-Christian worldview attacks on their faith that are coming through the sexual revolution.
Johnson believes our young people are leaving the church because they do not see any gays in the congregation. He naively sees the positive empathy for gays in the thinking of our rising generations as the understandable rejection of the cultural past of “fear, defensiveness and politicized” opposition to gays (152). Without abandoning those with same-sex attraction, should we not also warn against the cultural indoctrination that normalizes gay sexuality? For the sake of evangelizing gays, he honors “the secular LGBTQ community’s cultural liturgies reflecting the image of God and echo[ing] a very human longing for redemption, providing points of contact”(194). While such longing might be true in certain individual cases, he does not see the brainwashing of our youth by godless progressivism, the outrageous loss of sexual restraints, and the massive descent into immoral depravity. He does not ask what will happen to the culture when queer Oneist thinking dominates those in government positions of power, and when gay judges reject the biblical binary tradition of right and wrong and the notion of individual rights flowing from God the Creator of male and female distinctions. Johnson seems ready to accept forms of gay culture. He implies that gay marriage is a valid option for secular culture (9). But where will that take us? Not satisfied with tolerance, LGBTQ activists are now clandestinely grooming children to join their ranks without parental knowledge. Two teachers in a California school district are accused of coaching a student into coming out as transgender behind the backs of the student’s parents. 
Taking Care of Christian Orthodoxy
I fear that Johnson’s active, naive support for gay pastors and openly gay church members will eventually mean that the PCA will follow the recent history of our Reformed brothers in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). This historic church now faces a massive movement to normalize active homosexuality in church practice and doctrine. This could not happen to us, you say. The CRC denomination adopted the Statement of 1973, affirming that believers with same-sex attractions are to be fully accepted in the church, while declaring homosexuality to be “a condition of disordered sexuality.” But they discovered that LGBTQ members were speaking about “hurt-feelings over the 1973 position.” Supported by certain Calvin College professors, the Synod of 2016 included messages in rainbow sidewalk chalk, stating:
“We are the church too” …
“[W]e are dying to be who God made us” …
“57 years in CRC, GAY, What will you do w/ me? And 1000s others?”
Inclusive advocates gathered in the audience wearing rainbow colored clothing for the debate. Imagine a future PCA General Assembly with similar sartorial color effects. The up-coming CRC Synod of 2022 meets June 10–16 at Calvin University and will likely be “monumental,” as many believe, as orthodox delegates seek to hold all church leaders to the historic biblical view of sexuality. No one knows how things will turn out.
Christianity is being redesigned. In the Catholic Church, Pope Francis announced a re-ordering of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), splitting the doctrinal and disciplinary elements into two separate parts so that the Congregation will become LGBT friendly. These changes are hailed as “the most significant organizational changes to the office in over 30 years.”
In my opinion, those like Greg Johnson can be genuine church members if they clearly affirm Johnson’s biblical conviction: “Personally, what I find so convicting is this: As we look at the unfolding narrative of Scripture, we see that whenever sexual desire is cultivated outside of that original design…it is presented as something distorted. Something God doesn’t want us to do” (156).
But should such Christians be qualified to become ministers of the gospel? Not if they feel they should publicly and boldly declare their sexual weaknesses without hope of change. To claim ordination under these circumstances is to base church fellowship on an open admission of continuing and accepted sinful desire. Johnson seems to advocate public openness. Surely, we do share our sins in confidence with wise leaders, as we struggle to overcome them. It is interesting that Johnson cites John Stott and C. S. Lewis as examples of long-term celibates.
However, these men never spoke one word of any same-sex attraction or of a lack of heterosexual desire. Even if they did experience unchosen homosexual desire (which is not proven) or saw the homosexual condition as an unchosen orientation that would favor gay inclusion in the church, they never called for public recognition. Their example is healthy. They got on with their ministry without speaking of any eventual sexual difficulties. Which is the way most Christians function. Just as people feeling tempted by heterosexual indulgence or alcoholic excess ought to deal with the problem privately with their pastor, counselor, or close friend, so gay Christians who cannot control their feelings should seek counsel and keep their problems private. Johnson recommends privacy in certain areas. “Most non-straight spouses acknowledged their sexual orientation privately to a spouse or friend but kept the matter private” (238). Privacy is to respect the “straight” partner in such a marriage, and to be aware of the spiritual and theological weakness of young people in the pews faced with the present sexually “liberated” culture and tempted to follow its example.
Johnson wants care for himself and others in his situation but can he care for everyone—gay or straight— in a generation bombarded by Oneist thinking without a clear and courageous exposition of biblical orthodoxy in the areas where the culture is encroaching? He states: “It is not enough to have a gospel-centered pulpit” (223), arguing for the equally important role of communal life. But does Johnson minimize the power of the gospel-centered pulpit? Though Schaeffer had “compassion and empathy” for homosexuals, he stated clearly that he saw in homosexuality a breakdown of the biblical distinction between the sexes, a “denial of antithesis.’” Schaeffer saw the worldview issues, never held back on affirming the dangers of homosexual ideology, and gave hope to a whole generation of believers based on Twoism. One can do this and not “hate gays.”
As long as Greg Johnson maintains his celibate vow, he surely has a place in the church. Unfortunately, his constant sexual temptations and the need to make them publicly known raises questions about the effectiveness of preaching that might avoid passionate worldview exposition. Such worldview analysis is lacking in his book. Is it also lacking in our Reformed pulpits? What would Johnson’s message be to those students at Gordon College?
The call for cultural apologetics is not an appeal to pastors to preach politics! It is a matter of understanding the implications of our theology so we all can understand and live out those implications through the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit. A solid understanding of worldview is an increasingly great need in our nation’s churches and pulpits, which are abandoning orthodoxy in favor of cultural myths. They are turning away from God the Creator and Redeemer to celebrate depraved forms of pagan living. May we all speak clearly and boldly to Christians and non-Christians alike, with grace, humility, clarity, and power—following the example of the Apostle Paul.
Dr. Peter Jones is scholar in residence at Westminster Seminary California and associate pastor at New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido, Calif. He is director of truthXchange, a communications center aimed at equipping the Christian community to recognize and effectively respond to the rise of paganism. This article is used with permission.
 J. C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2018), 22.
 “We all face the temptation to put a fence around God’s law because we’re afraid someone might stray into sin. It’s well intended, but when people start feeling controlled, they start feeling abused.” Still Time to Care, 208.
 See Course Notes: “Restoring the Broken Image: Healing Homosexuality.” https://humanumreview.com/uploads/pdfs/Sodergren_for_SSU_6pp.pdf.
 Between .02% and .05% of people are born “intersex,” with physical abnormalities that disturb the normal binary pattern.
 Andrew J. Sodergren, “Restoring the Broken Image: Healing Homosexuality,” Humanum Issues in Family, Culture & Science: Same Sex Unions (Fall, 2012).
 “A Longitudinal Study of Attempted Religiously Mediated Sexual Orientation Change,” appeared in issue 37 of the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy (404—27) in 2011. “23% demonstrated ‘Success: Conversion.’ These were individuals who established a fairly robust heterosexual identity and lifestyle. Another 30% achieved ‘Success: Chastity,’ meaning that they were no longer acting out nor distressed by homosexual impulses but had not fully achieved a heterosexual identity and lifestyle. Sixteen percent (16%) had experienced some progress and were ‘Continuing’ to pursue change but had not yet achieved either form of ‘success.’ The last (“Failure: Gay Identity”) comprised 20%.
 Sullins and Rosik 2021, “Efficacy and Risk of SOCE“; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33968367/, See also Pela and Sutton 2021, “Sexual Attraction Fluidity and Well-being in Men.” https://www.journalofhumansexuality.com/journals).
 Originally filmed in 2014, then remade in 2018 and 2020.
 See https://changedmovement.com.
 Sara Collins, Along the Way: Still time to Care, a Review,” SaraCollinscounseling, (Sept 7, 2021).
 C.S.Lewis, God in the Dock: https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/1241712.
 Steven D. Smith, Pagans and Christians in the City: Culture Wars from the Tiber to the Potomac (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018). Readers should note that this book independently confirms what the present author has been seeking to show during the last twenty years in publications such as The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age (P&R, 1992), and Spirit Wars: Pagan Revival in Christian America (Main Entry Editions, 1998). See also Whose Rainbow? God’s Gift of Sexuality—A Divine Calling(Ezra Press, 2020). Other titles are available at www.truthXchange.com.
 Smith, Pagans and Christians, 111–12. Internal quotations are taken from Jan Asmann, The Price of Monotheism, trans. Robert Savage (Stanford University Press, 2010), 39; emphasis added by Smith.
“Androgyny: The Pagan Sexual Ideal,” JETS 43/3 (September 2000) 443–69.
 June Singer, Androgyny: Towards a New theory of sexuality (London: Routledge and Kegan, 1977), 237.
 See the historical expressions of this cited in Jones, “Androgyny.”
 Singer, Androgyny, 207.
 Singer, Androgyny, 333.
 The more overt pronouncements about homosexuality appeared in lectures by Jungian followers and contemporaries of Jung, applying his theories to issues of bi-sexuality and homosexuality, like that of Beatrice Hinkle on “Arbitrary Use of the Terms Masculine and Feminine,” and one by Constance Long, “Sex as a Basis of Character,” as plea for a positive affirmation of homosexual love. Jung’s followers, like June Singer and Toby Johnson develop Jung’s thinking to include the full justification of homosexuality.
 Read more at http://barbwire.com/2015/10/19/my-exodus-by-alan-chambers-a-book-review/.
 See also the amount of homosexual pedophilia–Dr. Gerard J.M. van den Aardweg, “Abuse by Priests, Homosexuality, Humanae vitae, and a Crisis of Masculinity in the Church,” Linacre Q, 2011 Aug; 78(3): 274–293.
 Sodom appears forty-eight times in the Bible.
 https://juicyecumenism.com/2022/02/08/abide-project-christian-reformed-church-lgbtq-theology/. Johnson is deeply bothered by a statement in article 7 of the Nashville statement on Sexuality, which states: “We deny that adopting a homosexual…self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.” Johnson wants to hold on to his homosexual self-conception.
 This is the opinion of the author of the article, https://www.crcna.org/ministers/19792, the Rev. Aaron Vriesman, pastor of North Blendon Christian Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.
 Michael Haynes, “Pope Francis restructures major Vatican office tasked with defending the faith,” Life Site News, February 14, 2022.
 John Stott and Al Hsu, “John Stott on Singleness ‘Uncle John’ Explains Why He Stayed Single for 90 Years,” Christianity Today Online, Aug 17, 2011, www.christiniatytodya.com/ct/2011/augustweb-only/johnstottsingleness.html.
 Though Lewis married later in life.
 Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, 57. Quoted by Johnson, 11.
By Ryan Biese — 1 year ago
It is a reminder to God’s people at the very start of the week – before they have accomplished a single thing that week – that in Christ, God’s disposition toward them is one of blessing, grace, peace, and love. God’s benediction (blessing) is not something we earn by performing satisfactorily or being good enough over the past week. God’s blessing is – like everything else in the gospel – a gift of His free grace to fill His empty people.
When I was younger and growing up in a Lutheran congregation, I knew the worship service was almost over when the congregation sang a scripture song (canticle) that began: “Thank the Lord and sing His praise…” following the communion.
On one occasion of singing this song, I remember leaning over to my dad and saying, “Yep, thank the Lord this is almost over!” He was less than pleased by my comment.
As a young child, I was excited about the end of the worship service because it meant an end to sitting still and the beginning of running around, being silly, and — of course — lunch!
But now as an adult and a minister in a Reformed Church, I still look forward to the end of the worship service and particularly the final element: the Benediction.
The Structure of Reformed Worship
There is a logic to a Reformed worship service. It begins with God calling the people to worship Him. We don’t come into God’s presence except by His command and invitation.
Following the “Call to Worship” are various elements that exalt God before us as we renew our covenant with Him and praise Him for who He is and what He has done for us.
The worship service ends with the “Benediction.”
The Blessing of God
The word benediction simply means good word; it is a blessing. Benedictions appear in most of the letters of the New Testament (the Epistle of James, notably, concludes without one).
Typically the benediction in a worship service is taken directly from a passage of Scripture.
Sometimes the object of blessing is God:
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24–25)
But more often the object of blessing is the people of God:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)
Sometimes a benediction is a compilation of Biblical texts as in the case of this onecommonly used by Ligon Duncan:
Peace be to the brethren and love with faith, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ until the day breathes and the shadows flee away. Amen. (cf. Eph 6:23, Cant. 2:17)